Each winter, with the coming of awards season, the colors of America's multi-plexes turn from bright pastels to dismal browns and grays as Hollywood strains for gravitas with their takes on the most depressing topics of the day.
After a long season of caped-superheroes and cars smashing into things, its probably only fair that we should then eat our vegetables and be forced to sit through a few month of loving portrayals of war, disease, genocide, aging, divorce, poverty and Hitler.
And there is nothing that gets development execs more excited than a torn-from-the-headlines bummer; after all, events like the Iraq War or the Economic Collapse have built in name recognition...and people have proven they are interested by living in a world dominated by them without killing themselves.
The problem, as Hollywood perpetually discovers, when it seeks to market its latest Iraq film for instance, is that when people look for entertainment (the condition they still amazingly associate with their visits to the multi-plex) they don't think of it in terms of shelling out a week's pay to be bludgeoned for two hours by a big screen version of the same hopeless depressing mess they've been forced to hear about all day on their cable news.
In the case of Up In the Air, the about to be released Oscar darling starring George Clooney as a downsizing specialist, the LA Times documents today the challenge facing the Paramount marketing department, as they attempt to get folks to come out of their homes to enjoy a fun-filled romp through the world of mass lay-offs. Apparently, the marketeers job has been made all the more interesting by director Jason Reitman's decision to tie the film directly to current conditions by cutting in clips of real-life laid-off people talking about their real life lay-offs. Now who wouldn't call that an evening of family fun?
Well, if you are a marketeer, wondering, how do I sell that, the answer is apparently, you don't. Despite a bunch of assurances in the piece that the film resonates well with grown-up serious people, the Paramount marketing department decided not even to try to sell that line to the public. The piece reports:
But the marketing doesn't dwell on the pain of layoffs. The theatrical trailer includes only a few quick glimpses of job-loss scenes. And the teaser trailer and two clips on the movie's website include no references to unemployment whatsoever. Instead, in selling the movie, Paramount is emphasizing Bingham's journey of self-discovery, his existential isolation as a corporate consultant who lives out of his suitcase and off an expense account.
"At its heart, the movie is about making human connections," said Josh Greenstein, Paramount's co-president of marketing. "That's so relevant in the world we live in today, where, with Twitter and e-mail, people communicate without being face-to-face." To make that point, the poster for the movie features Clooney standing at an airport terminal staring out the window, with the tag line: "The story of a man ready to make a connection."
Now if only they could find a way to make clear that all these Iraq films are not about guns, or killing, or the eternal quagmire of the Middle East but about, you know, guys hanging out and talking about guy stuff, really no different than any run-of-the-mill Judd Apatow film, then theyy'd really be onto a forumla for success.